On Tuesday, the Brentwood City Council unanimously approved placing a voter-protected open space overlay ballot measure on the November 8 ballot.
According to staff, this was the fourth time in four months to talk about this item.
If voters approve this measure in November, it will protect approximately 175 parcels throughout the city to keep the parcels as designated open space. Any changes to the parcels over the next 40-years, except in certain circumstances, would need voter approval.
The goal was to originally restrict development on the two golf courses at Shadow Lakes and Deer Ridge based on residents concerns, however, this morphed into protecting all open space parcels as small as 1-acre in size throughout the city–Staff had proposed 5-acre parcels and above, Council opted for 1-acre parcels and above.
The item was brought forward by residents which modeled their plan after the City of Martinez, which then morphed into a larger initiative once councilpersons and city staff got involved.
Per the Staff Report, items to consider include:
- 40–Year Sunset and Election Costs: The proposed ballot measure includes a 40–year sunset, as directed by Council. During this timeframe, any proposal to exclude properties from the Overlay would require a vote of the people at a regular or special election. Currently, such elections are estimated to range in cost from $130,000 to $150,000.
- Constraints on Legislative Authority: If adopted, the ballot measure will remove land use control from the City’s local legislative body.
- Limitations on the Overlay’s Effects: As noted above, state and federal law can preempt local land use regulations in different contexts. Though the intent of the ballot measure is to increase protections for open space, there may be instances where a public or private entity has the legal authority to supersede the Overlay’s requirements.
Allowable Uses. Lands designated as Voter-Protected Open Space may only be used for open space, parks, agricultural, and recreational uses. This designation includes park areas, open space areas, agricultural land, and indoor and outdoor recreational facilities of varying size, function, and location that are intended to serve the entire community.
Consideration of a resolution submitting the proposed Voter-Protected Open Space Overlay to the voters at the General Municipal Election on November 8, 2022.
1. Adopt City Council Resolution No. 2022-____ titled, “A Resolution of the City Council of the City of Brentwood Presenting to the Voters a Voter-Protected Open Space Overlay Ballot Measure at the General Election to be Held on Tuesday, November 8, 2022; Directing Preparation of an Impartial Analysis for the Ballot Measure; Providing for Written Arguments Regarding the City Ballot Measure; and Providing for the Filing of Rebuttal Arguments.”
2. Authorize some, all, or none of the Council to formulate the ballot argument in favor of the measure.
- August 12 – last day to file ballot measure with the County Registrar of Voters
- August 19 – Last day for City Attorney to file impartial analysis with the City Clerk
- August 24 – Last day to submit ballot arguments in favor of or against ballot proposition to City Clerk. Last day for city Attorney to file impartial analysis with City Clerk
- August 29 – Last day to submit rebuttal arguments to City Clerk
- November – Election Day
The move comes after the City Council had taken several actions over the past few months.
Tuesday Night Discussion
Councilmember Karen Rarey asked several questions of staff regarding “net loss” of parcels and replacing them.
With regards to a “net loss” clause, Assistant City Manager Darin Gale explained for example that if in 20 years the city wants to build any type of city facility on a parcel within the overlay, it would allow the council to swap land to build that facility but then have no net loss of any open space–meaning it would be replaced. He also said if you wanted to swap land with another local entity, such as a fire station, flood control agency, school district, this would allow the swap to occur—but it would mean no net loss of open space.
“That is a concern with some of the residents,” said Rarey who confirmed this would be a general plan amendment.
Rarey also confirmed public schools could come in at any time with a 4/5 school board vote which the city would have no control.
Councilmember Jovita Mendoza asked if they did not have the provision, could schools still come in and swap land.
Gale explained that if a school district wanted to come in an buy land they can do whatever they want with it with a 4/5 vote. If this was a city park and the city owned the parcel, for the city to make that land swap the city would have to agree with it. It would have to meet the requirement that it’s for public use and no net loss of open space which is protected by the overlay.
Mendoza then asked if the school district purchased the golf course land and entered an agreement with the landowner for some sort of agreement, if this would apply. Staff said “no” because its private property and the city does not own the land.
“If the school district buys the land even with this initiative, can they still build a school there,” asked Mendoza.
Gale said “yes, they do not have to follow the initiative.”
Mendoza then highlighted that voters in future elections must be careful who they elect.
“The voters listening out there, you have to be very careful of who you elect and make sure they support open space because I can see this not going the best way,” said Mendoza. “I am not loving this in there but I understand that it has to be in there.”
Rarey confirmed that under this scenario an amended map would excluded the old parcel and include a new parcel which Gale confirmed would show no net loss.
Councilwoman Susannah Meyer confirmed there was no alternative to a “no net loss” which Gale said over the 40-years this would be in the best interest of the city.
After public comments, Rarey called what they were doing a “good thing” but also called it “unfortunate”.
“You know, this is a good thing, but its unfortunate that we need to create an initiative like this to save our open spaces. For the past couple of years our state lawmakers have whittled away our ability to control residential land use in our own city. And more housing bills have been introduced this year that could whittled away some more,” explained Rarey who noted that even if they put a moratorium on homes today, because of state legislation they were not able to (such as SB 330 in 2019). “I think what we are doing will help a lot.”
Vice Mayor Johnny Rodriquez thanked the staff and community for their input.
Mayor Joel Bryant thanked council members, staff and the community for bringing this forward. He also echoed comments made by Rarey.
“There is nothing more frustrating than watching the state whittle away at local control and local open spaces,” said Bryant while adding they needed to the ability to keep local control as long as and as strong as possible. “We are not just going to lay down and let the state walk all over us.”
In terms who would work on the ballot argument in favor of the open space initiative, Rarey suggested councilmembers Mendoza and Meyer work with three local citizens of their choice to craft the message.
Rodriquez questioned if they should open up this ballot argument group to additional people who may not have been involved in the original effort.
“These people worked really hard on this, so allowing somebody who had no part in it at all to be on the ballot argument for doesn’t make any sense,” said Rarey.
Mendoza added, “this has been years of research. This isn’t two or three months. It has been years and years of phone calls, research, meeting with people in Martinez. This is not just hey we woke up. I think you need to give credit where credit is due and that is to the Alliance for a Better Brentwood that worked so relentless on this.”
Meyer stated that people giving the input will be for something that benefits the whole city which people from all over the city will be voting on this.
The council then approved placing the voter-Protected Open Space Overlay on Ballot along with the subcommittee of Mendoza and Meyer with community members in a 5-0 vote.
The voter-protected open space overlay ballot measure will now appear on the November 8 ballot.
On March 8, 2022, the City Council provided direction to staff to begin working on an open
space initiative with the following stated goals1:
- Protect the City from future State mandates regarding the conversion of certain types of recreational uses or underdeveloped land to other uses;
- Protect open space and parks from future development;
- Model the proposed initiative after a similar Martinez measure, and work with Rod Flohr and others to learn from his research regarding the Martinez measure and other open space measures;
- Ensure the Deer Ridge and Shadow Lake golf courses are not redeveloped into residential or intensive commercial uses;
- Place the initiative on the November 2022 General Election ballot;
- Ensure future City Councils are unable to make general plan amendments or rezones of open space and parks lands without a vote of residents; and
- Hire outside counsel with environmental and election law experience to assist with the
On April 26, 2022, the City Council directed staff to move forward with legal and planning analysis for the proposed ballot initiative.
On May 26, 2022, the Council provided further direction to develop a new general plan designation, the Voter-Protected Open Space Overlay, to protect open space, parks and recreational lands. The Council also clarified its goal of including the Brentwood Country Club golf course, in addition to the Deer Ridge and Shadow Lakes golf courses, within the initiative’s scope.
On June 14, 2022, the Council provided direction and made recommendations regarding the scope of the initiative on a 3-0 vote.
- The Council confirmed the overlay concept language that would apply to lands subject to
the Overlay within existing municipal boundaries.
- Regarding proposed exceptions, the Council confirmed existing exceptions for roads, and infrastructure such as public water, wastewater, storm drain, and water recycling facilities. In addition, the Council requested further information on whether additional public facilities should be included in the exceptions.
- The Council provided direction regarding the location of the proposed Overlay:
- Large areas designated in the General Plan as Semi-Public Facility that are currently developed with recreational uses and/or community open space (as shown on maps provided with the 6/14/22 agenda);
- Parks (of all sizes) designated in the General Plan, as well as par7 areas within
- the Brentwood Boulevard and Downtown Specific Plans, if feasible;
- Areas designated in the General Plan as Permanent Open Space;
- Investigate General Plan land use designation of linear park on Grant Street for potential inclusion.
- The Council directed that the Overlay include a sunset date of 40 years.